By: Danny Thomas
Even before I had kids I was angry at the world, or more specifically humans.
I mean, I have a sense of humor
And I can see the light and joy in a lot of things.
I can even see the bittersweet beauty in things that are heartbreakingly sad
This is humanity.
But sometimes the anger and frustration I feel
As a father, and as a father of daughters
Makes the anger I felt toward humanity pre-fatherhood seem like small beans.
(there are going to be more uses of the word “fuck” in this blog than I’ve ever used before)
Look, probably by many people’s standards I am a completely disqualified feminist.
I gawk, and I guess I think it’s okay, I look at, and enjoy the shape and allure of an attractive human shape, be it male or female (admittedly, I have a broader definition of what that is than mass media and culture at large),
I enjoy pinups, I think porn and strippers have a place in this world, my kids play with Barbie Dolls and watch movies about Disney princesses – we have all kinds of toys and entertainment in our house that I’m sure would fail many people’s definition of healthy body-image-developing influences.
There is a real challenge there because I want my children to have confidence and healthy body image, but, I am not interested in sheltering my children, I am not interested in hiding the world from them. My goal is to foster confident, self aware, engaged, and insightful spirits, with strong psyches who can look at a Barbie doll and determine for themselves what it represents about our culture and what it means to them as individuals. However…
I am becoming increasingly aware that, particularly in the case of women, our culture is not designed to help me with that goal.
A few things have happened in the last three or four days that have pointed that out to me.
Not that I was ignorant of it before, I live with a woman who’s academic focus is largely based on Gender Studies…
believe me, there have been times when, in our house, we have eaten, breathed, and slept “female representation in the media” along with queer theory, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and location…
I am glad.
Frankly, part of the reason I married my wife is that she was the first woman I fell for who had enough Yang to compensate for my overabundance of Yin. Hell, part of the reason I asked her to marry me is because she told me I would.
Anyway, over the last few days, the Thanksgiving Holiday I guess…
a few things have just been hitting me over the head, gender wise…
First, we watched the Macy’s parade on Thanksgiving morning.
It’s a family tradition that we honor, it is theatrical, and ridiculous, and weird, and surreal…
I enjoy that part of it.
We rarely, almost never watch live, commercial t.v. anymore – we stream most everything we watch, in fact, the kids don’t really understand commercials at all – that is a trip for another blog.
The point is, watching these commercials I was struck over and over by the tenor of them, almost all of them were geared toward women (the parade demographic, I suppose)…
I have long taken umbrage with home care products being marketed exclusively to women, but the thing that was jumping out at me, and, as I have said, I know this isn’t new, it just struck me as… old fashioned, last century, as we watched t.v. on Thanksgiving 2011.
What jumped out at me was all of these fashion, hygiene, and cosmetic products basically telling women that they are inadequate, in essence telling my daughters that they were not good enough. I wanted to holler, “Fuck You!” at the TV. – I may actually have. It wouldn’t be the first time.
I wanted to go Elvis on the TV…
Apparently, if you’re a woman, your body needs skin protection, this soap, that eye liner, butt lifting this, boob lifting that…
The fucking deodorant was even pissing me off, I muttered under my breath, “we are human, we smell, it’s actually a good thing, fuckers…”
Here are my beautiful, perfect, raw children… Oh man it was just… not the way I’d ever seen things before, I guess, so stark, bare… a new light. That must have set a sensitive tone for the weekend.
The next thing, I can’t remember if it was Friday or Saturday morning, my nearly six-year-old, she is only almost six, mind you, asks me if she’s fat or skinny… I was floored.
I knew that this was on the list of inevitable, challenging questions I was going to have to deal with as a father,
along with, “Have you ever done drugs?” and, “Can I go to a boys & girls sleep over?” and “Can I borrow $500?”
Believe me I figured it was coming, just not at five years old.
“I think you are perfectly sized.” I said. Which is not a lie. She is proportionate… as if it even fucking matters, but now I am racing to find books to read, as well as books to read to her, about healthy body image…. Fuck.
And finally, this afternoon, as she and I trolled through a stack of pictures and homework, scanning the keepers and round filing the rest, we came across a coloring packet she worked on in kindergarten.
The packet, clearly put together by a well-intentioned teacher, volunteer, or TA was titled, “Community Helpers”
and included public professionals that are important for kids to be aware of and recognize, as well as a few other professional people.
Doctor, Policeman, Farmer, Baker – all men. In fact all the professionals were men – except, of course, the teacher and the nurse.
Now – my kids know, in their personal lives: female cops, female farmers, female doctors, male nurses – so not only is this coloring packet at best: careless, at worst: bigoted, it does not represent the reality it is purporting to convey. Argh.
I was so disappointed.
Believe me the school, and the teacher will be getting a letter, not that I blame them, I blame our culture, but I also feel obligated to let these educators know I think they could do better.
I’ve wanted to be a dad since I was 20 years old, and I feel blessed to be one, a million times over blessed, beyond measure. And I thank and honor the many friends and strangers who have opted not to have children, leaving space and opportunity for mine, and their peers, however, sometimes the challenges are so huge, and insurmountable I feel that all I can do is fail. It is a proven fact that parenting is a Sisyphean task, so I guess I’ll keep my head down, rolling that rock up the hill, swearing at the TV, and hoping that my efforts pay off, with strong, independent, self aware daughters, who are happy with how their bodies smell and feel and look…